Memphis is music. It’s a city inseparable from the creatives and musicians who have shaped its culture, changed its politics, and built and rebuilt communities across Shelby County, from Frayser to Soulsville and beyond. Memphis’ list of music bona fides is a mile long, and while we may not be the biggest city, our musical legacy is unmatched. A stroll down Beale Street on any given Saturday night will tell you that.

But all legacies begin somewhere.

Spend an hour in any Memphis music classroom, or at one of the local arts programs, and you’ll witness firsthand the sheer talent of Memphis’ young creatives. It’d be easy to assume that this wellspring of creativity could never run dry, that there will always be world-class talent on Beale Street. But the truth is, Memphis’ creativity runs on community, and our young people must continue to have opportunities to pursue their art and cultivate their talents—now more than ever. 

That’s why this summer, the MMI Works team worked tirelessly to plan the best program experience possible, providing participants with high-quality virtual summer learning, engagement, and paid professional opportunities. 

The typical Works program is eight weeks long, with participants working 32 hours per week at various arts organizations across the city. Each week, students attend one professional development (PD) session to incorporate overarching curriculum. Each session provides tailored curricula that helps students bridge their school and work experiences with whole-life skills, including design thinking, problem solving, and goal setting. It also provides a space for students to explore and cultivate a sense of liberation through creativity.

This summer looked a bit different, but was no less meaningful. MMI Works students spent their afternoons working virtually for a number of local worksite partners, and spent mornings in various creative track instructional sessions, led by MMI Works alumni, Fellows, and more. Students were able to choose the track (Creative Writing, Instrumental, Vocal, Dance, Filmmaking/Screenwriting, Visual Art, and Music Production) that most aligned with their passions, making for a dynamic experience in the digital world. 

Below, you’ll find student projects from each of these tracks. We invite you to spend a few moments enjoying some truly impressive writing, music, and performances from the future of Memphis art. 

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Creative Writing 

Janay K., Jasmine J., Jau’Kizah R., Kennedy J.

These pieces were written by Jasmine, Kennedy, and Janay during Week 3 of the program. Students were asked to write free-verse using visual art as inspiration. 

Dance 

Final performance by Aa’Liyah G., Jasmin S., and Lukendra R.

Filmmaking / Screenwriting

Jada P., Jakobi A., Joel C., Maya A.

This video is the Filmmaking/Screenwriting Track’s creative liberation project. This summer, each track chose a social issue to respond to in their chosen medium. 

Instrumental Performance

Andrea D., Christian B., Dwayne M., Jada L., Jalin A., Kedrick J., Kenneth R., Quincy E., Wilmer A.

And be sure to check out the Instrumental Track group’s final project—a rendition of “Overjoyed,” featuring a cameo from Grammy-nominated musician and shared Grammy winner Dwele!  

Music Production

Adam B., Aubrey K., August P., Bianca F., Hezekiah H.

This playlist includes tracks by The Works—MMI’s Music Production Track supergroup. 

Visual Art

Danielle P., Emma H., Precious C.

Vocal Performance

Aryianna C., Camilla M., Caycie B., Chantalia W., Coby B., Donsha W., Jacolby R., Judah S., Katrice M., Kyla S., Maliyah S., Nyjal W., Solomon B., Sydney W., Trinity C., Zoey M. 

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We are so grateful for all the track coaches, worksite partners, and students who were willing to ride with us through a difficult summer. Even in the face of a pandemic, a school year unlike any other, and numerous everyday obstacles facing Black and brown youth in Memphis, there’s a creative spark here that cannot be diminished. Through it all, Memphis’ young people continue to amaze, inspire, and uphold this city’s storied music legacy. 

And they’re carrying us with them into their future.